The Toho studio's 1954 smash hit Godzilla showed a nuclear-radiated dino-monster wreaking destruction on a nation for which nuclear destruction was still a fresh horror.
Between that and Roland Emmerich's 1998 version of the story, the monster rather lost some of its symbolic potency, but now this po-faced big-budget remake seems intent on exploiting all of the fresh disasters it can think of.
It begins with a Fukushima-style nuclear power plant meltdown. There are earthquakes and a tsunami. Planes fly into the sides of buildings and, of course, skyscrapers crumble to the ground.
Gareth Edwards, the British director of the low-budget special-effects wonder Monsters, is very good at digitally recreating the kind of sights we're accustomed to seeing on the news: the bustle of FEMA emergency relief centres and the eerie lifelessness of evacuated radiation zones, as well as the spectacle of destruction itself. But to what end?
The only interesting characters are killed off in the first half hour, after which the human focus narrows to Aaron Taylor-Johnson's exceedingly dull bomb-disposal expert: basically, a furrowed brow in a uniform.
All human suffering is reduced to a statistic glimpsed in passing on a TV screen, while all human agency, which is kind of important in narrative cinema, is reduced to the situation room in which a Japanese scientist and a US general explain small chunks of plot to each other.
The monsters, it must be said, are awesome. But they have tiny pre-mammalian brains and only the most basic, instinctive motivations. So when they are your film's most interesting characters, even the most spectacle-hungry viewer is going to get bored.